Bigoli with Duck Ragu from Veneto, Italy

Bigoli with Duck Ragu from Veneto.

Bigoli with duck ragu is a traditional dish here in Veneto where I live. In fact, if you are visiting the region you are bound to find it on offer in many restaurants. It is also often cooked by the Venetians on holidays or feast days. I have eaten it many times, but this was my first time cooking it!

Bigoli with duck ragu

I bigoli con l’anatra.

Bigoli is a usually fresh pasta, mostly eaten in Veneto. It‘s made with flour, eggs (often duck eggs), salt, water or milk and sometimes butter. It looks like very thick spaghetti and is about 3-4mm in diameter. Traditionally this pasta was made with a press called a torchio or bigolaro which had to be wound by hand as the pasta dough passed through the holes in the bottom. I have written more about the history of bigoli and the bigolaro in another post.

Bigoli with duck ragu

Traditional bigoli with duck ragu.

Bigoli is most often eaten with various fat-rich sauces, the most well-known of which is duck ragu. In the past, the traditional recipe for this ragu involved cooking the bigoli in a fatty broth in which a young duck had been boiled. The Venetians then made a sauce with flavored butter and the offal of the duck, which they ate with the pasta. The duck itself was eaten after.

Bigoli with duck ragu ingredients

A bigoli with duck ragu festival!

This dish used to be traditionally cooked in September and October during the hunting season. Even today, in the small town of Zane near Vicenza, a ‘bigoli with duck’ festival is held on the first Sunday of October.  At the feast, bigoli is first served with duck meat sauce and then the duck is served separately. In keeping with tradition, they also cook the pasta in the duck broth, rather than in water.  I’ve never tried it this way but, apparently, this makes the whole dish a lot tastier.

Nowadays many people use minced duck meat to make a sauce very similar to normal meat ragu, but usually without tomatoes. That recipe is, of course, extremely lean and obviously healthier! However, to be honest I feel it’s cheating a bit and doesn’t have the same flavour as other methods of making this dish.

Bigoli with duck ragu ingredients

 Different ways to make the duck ragu!

There are a number of other ways of preparing the duck ragu. Some people roast a whole duck, then add the meat to the sauce. Others use only duck breast which has been finely chopped and cook it in the sauce.  I decided to use duck pieces (2 legs and a breast). A whole quartered duck can be cooked the same way. I browned the duck and then cooked it in the sauce for 2 hours. Once it was ready, I removed the duck, allowed it to cool and then cut the meat into very small pieces. Before returning the meat to the pan, I also skimmed most of the fat from the sauce.

bigoli with duck ragu sauce

The best duck ragu my hubby has ever eaten!

It turned out to be a long process, although it’s possible to get on with other things whilst the sauce is simmering! However, it was well worth the time spent as it turned out a lot tastier than many of the versions I have eaten made with minced duck or just duck breast. My hubby, who comes from Sicily but has lived in Veneto for more than 30 years, told me it was the best bigoli with duck he’d ever eaten and he’s eaten it many many times! So I’m feeling pretty chuffed right now! Check out the recipe below and enjoy!

If you make this duck pasta recipe, I’d love to hear how it turns out and if you liked it. Please leave a comment here on the blog or on The Pasta Project Facebook page.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Buon appetito!  

Another delicious bigoli recipe you may like is Bigoli with sausage ragu. Click this link to check it out. Recipe Bigoli with luganega sausage

If you like this recipe you may also like Bigoli with farmyard ragu made with duck, guinea fowl and stewing hen!

Bigoli with farmyard ragu

(This recipe post was first published in 2017, but has been updated)

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5 from 24 votes
Bigoli with duck ragu
Bigoli with Duck Ragu
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time
2 hrs 45 mins
A delicious traditional pasta dish from Veneto, Italy made with slow cooked duck.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Northern Italy, Veneto
Keyword: bigoli, duck, duck sauce, ragu
Servings: 6
Author: Jacqueline Debono
  • 1 duck cut into quarters or duck pieces (I used 2 legs and a breast)
  • 2 celery stalks peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 2 carrots finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth I used 1 stock cube
  • 3 tbsp tomato concentrate
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary chopped
  • 1 fresh bay leaf or 1/2 tsp dried
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 500 g fresh bigoli
  • Freshly grated parmesan or grana cheese for serving
  • salt for pasta, to season duck and to taste
  • black pepper to season duck and to taste
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy-duty pot or deep frying pan.
  2. Season the duck pieces with salt and pepper and place them skin side down in the pot.
  3. Sear until the skin is browned and crisp.
  4. Turn the pieces over and brown the other sides
  5. Remove the duck and pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of the rendered fat and discard
  6. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the celery, onion, and carrot.
  7. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are softened.
  8. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute.
  9. Pour in the wine and increase the heat to high.
  10. Boil until wine is reduced by 1/2, then reduce the heat to medium.
  11. Add the broth, tomato concentrate, sage, rosemary and bay leaf, stirring to combine.
  12. Return the duck to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil.
  13. Reduce the heat to low, just enough to maintain a gentle simmer.
  14. Cover the pot and simmer until the meat is tender, approx 1.5 to 2 hours. Be careful not to let the duck dry out.

  15. If the sauce starts to dry out add more white wine or chicken broth.
  16. Remove the duck from the pot and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  17. Skim the excess fat from the top of the sauce with a large spoon.
  18. If the sauce seems thin, continue simmering until thickened to desired consistency.
  19. Discard the duck skin and cut the meat off the leg bones.
  20. Shred or cut all the duck meat into very small pieces
  21. Add the meat to the sauce.
  22. Let the sauce simmer gently for 10 minutes.

  23. Remove the bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  24. When ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
  25. Cook the bigoli al dente according to the instructions on the packet if store bought. 6-8 minutes if homemade
  26. Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water and then drain the pasta.
  27. Return the pasta to the pot and toss it with some of the ragù, adding a little of the pasta cooking water if it seems dry.

  28. Serve the pasta with more ragù spooned over the top, sprinkled with the grated cheese.
Recipe Notes

This ragu tastes even better if made in advance 2-3 hours or even the day before. It can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
It can also be eaten with other types of long pasta such as tagliatelle, thick spaghetti or bucatini


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Bigoli with duck ragu

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  • Avatar
    Antoinette Bilocca
    February 21, 2020 11:24 pm

    Can you tell me how to get the fat off from ducks and chicken dishes I tried with bread slices and didn’t find it so good thank you love your recipes. Antoinette

    • Jacqui
      February 23, 2020 9:57 am

      Hi Antoinette. Thanks for your comment. I’m happy you like my recipes! Re duck and chicken fat. I agree it can be difficult and depends on what you are making. In general, with sauce or stock, I allow it to cool and then remove the fat that has formed on the surface with a slotted spoon. I once read that once the sauce has cooled a little if you put in some ice-cubes the fat will coagulate around the ice cube and you can lift it out. But, I’ve never tried that!

  • Avatar
    mimi rippee
    October 21, 2019 5:00 pm

    I have never had or made duck ragu. Now I must! thank you for the recipe!

  • Avatar
    Jason Conde
    July 7, 2019 7:23 am

    Preparing the best pasta can be really difficult at first. It was almost impossible for us to master how to do it without proper step-by-step tutorial from the professional chefs.
    I’ve watched hundreds of tutorials online, but nothing beats the simple, clear-to-the-cut video of Gordon Ramsey.

    • Jacqui
      July 7, 2019 8:50 am

      Dear Jason. I had to remove your link as it wasn’t secure! But Gordon Ramsey does something when he cooks pasta which Italians almost never do!! He adds olive oil to the cooking water! This is not good because the oil coats the pasta and then the pasta doesn’t absorb the sauce!! Italians only do this when cooking dried lasagne sheets (for example) as they tend to stick together and it’s difficult to separate them to make lasagna with them.

  • Avatar
    June 24, 2019 6:27 am

    Now this is absolutely my kind of lunch. I love the combination of spices you ised in the recipe, I can almost taste it.

    • Jacqui
      June 27, 2019 9:11 am

      Thank you so much Neha! This bigoli with duck is fabulous! I hope you’ll try it!

  • Avatar
    Analida Braeger
    June 24, 2019 1:29 am

    This has my mouth watering , I have never had duck ragu before but now I know I need it !

    • Jacqui
      June 27, 2019 9:12 am

      Grazie Analida! Yes seriously mouth watering! Duck ragu is really delicious!

  • Avatar
    June 24, 2019 12:05 am

    Finally a good bigoli with duck recipe. I’ve been searching for it for such a long time! Time to try this recipe – I have all the ingredients that I need for it!

    • Jacqui
      June 27, 2019 9:14 am

      I’m thrilled you’re going to make this recipe for bigoli with duck Danielle! You won’t be disappointed, I promise you!

  • Avatar
    Jenni LeBaron
    June 23, 2019 11:56 pm

    I’ve never had a duck ragu before, but both the fella and I love duck, love ragu, and love pasta so I’m positive this would be delicious for both of us! I appreciate that you’ve included plenty of herbs too because my garden is finally starting to produce plenty!

    • Jacqui
      June 27, 2019 9:16 am

      If you love duck and pasta, you’ll love this dish Jenni! Using herbs from your own the garden will add to the flavour!

  • Avatar
    Rebecca Blackwell
    June 23, 2019 6:48 pm

    I’ve never had great luck cooking duck. It often turns out tough and chewy, but I’m thinking I just haven’t had a good recipe. This looks absolutely delicious, so I’m going to give it a shot. I’ll let you know how it goes! Thank you for sharing this recipe as well as all the helpful tips!

    • Jacqui
      June 27, 2019 9:17 am

      I agree Rebecca, duck can be tricky! But this duck ragu is so good! Looking forward to hearing how yours turned out!

  • Avatar
    Paula Montenegro
    June 21, 2019 11:49 pm

    You always post the most delicious looking pasta dishes! I love ragu with all my heart. Thanks for this recipe.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      October 17, 2019 12:29 am

      Thank you so much Paula! There is so much delicious food to share.

  • Avatar
    June 21, 2019 10:14 pm

    Looks delicious! I have never had the courage to cook duck. It’s just not very common here and probably rather expensive. But your recipe seems worth it, it does look really delicious. Love the idea of also using a duck’s egg inthe pasta!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      October 17, 2019 12:30 am

      Take the plunge Eva, you won’t be disappointed!

  • Avatar
    Nicolas Hortense
    June 19, 2019 1:47 am

    Wow this duck ragu looks absolutely amazing! Duck is one of my favourites but I have never seen it like this before!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      October 17, 2019 12:31 am

      Thank you Nicolas, if you love duck, then you will love this recipe!

  • Avatar
    Alisha Rodrigues
    June 18, 2019 11:50 pm

    I love all the flavor you’ve got in there. This one’s totally my kinda food.. A plate full of deliciousness

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      October 17, 2019 12:32 am

      Thank you, Alisha! Hope you try it and love it!

  • Avatar
    June 18, 2019 11:01 pm

    I love experimenting with traditional recipes – they are always as good as a recipe can get! And it’s been a while since I had duck – so two in one here!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      October 17, 2019 12:33 am

      That is very true April!

  • Avatar
    June 18, 2019 9:00 pm

    I haven’t attempted to make duck at home but this looks reason to get some! I love authentic pasta dishes like this that bring me back to my time in Italy 🙂 Delish!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      October 17, 2019 12:34 am

      Yes, you can recreate your own little bit of Italy in your kitchen!

  • Avatar
    Veena Azmanov
    June 18, 2019 5:21 pm

    I have never tried or eaten duck, so this sounds interesting and delicious. A must try option for the family.

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      October 17, 2019 12:35 am

      Duck is so good Veena! Hope you get to try it.

  • Avatar
    June 18, 2019 2:28 am

    I have a serious love for duck, so I can’t believe I’ve never had duck ragu! I’m excited to change that — I know this will be super delicious.

  • Avatar
    Cathleen @ A Taste of Madness
    June 16, 2019 12:43 am

    I’m going to Italy next week, so I am looking to try some traditional dishes. I will make sure to keep an eye out for this, because it looks so good!!

  • Avatar
    Jenni LeBaron
    June 16, 2019 12:01 am

    I love the look of this pasta dish and all of the big flavors that went into the ragu. I also love that you made something that is so culturally relevant in your town. It makes me contemplate what my area’s dish would be.

  • Avatar
    Cheese Curd In Paradise
    June 15, 2019 8:18 pm

    I have not tried bigoli before, but it sounds really good! I love duck, and the flavors of this ragu sound so delicious!

  • Avatar
    Stine Mari
    June 15, 2019 11:09 am

    This looks amazing! And congratulations on making the best duck ragu ever! And I can totally see why, the ingredients and process MUST make this delicious!

  • Avatar
    Kelly Anthony
    June 14, 2019 10:02 pm

    Do you suggest a dry white wine for this duck ragu recipe?

  • Avatar
    Jeannette (Jay Joy)
    June 14, 2019 3:59 pm

    Thank you you so much for telling us about the two different ways to make the duck ragu!

  • Avatar
    John Maguire
    June 7, 2019 9:11 pm

    I live in south west France where duck is eaten regularly- one specialty here is duck sausage- the best types come from local duck producers, it not too finely chopped or as an alternative I will try using preserved duck leg. I will let you know how it turns out.

  • Avatar
    May 12, 2018 2:27 am

    This sounds so good. I’m sure the duck add a deep flavor to this dish. Next time I get duck I’m going to have try this dish.

  • Avatar
    Stephanie Simmons
    May 11, 2018 10:23 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever made duck but it sounds yummy!

  • Avatar
    camila hurst
    May 11, 2018 1:22 pm

    I’ve never tried duck before! Wonder if it’s gonna taste as delicious as you make it look!

  • Avatar
    May 10, 2018 7:11 pm

    The flavors in this recipe look absolutely spectacular! Love it!!

  • Avatar
    Stine Mari
    May 10, 2018 12:54 pm

    Fun fact; I’ve never tasted duck. But why not? This looks amazing.

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